On Becoming Holy

This morning, as I pondered a recent conversation with a friend, I had an image of a child in a playpen. The child was holding up his or her hands to the father.  The father was reaching down to pick up the child. What did this image say to me? 

First, I should start with a little background on the conversation with my friend. We were comparing definitions of spirituality.  For me, spirituality is about living out faith in a way that builds a relationship with God.  Part of living the faith is practicing acts of virtue.  

Does one practice virtue to make oneself holy?  No. God is the one who perfects the person, not the person. At the same time, God will not overrun our will.  Therefore, there are things that the person must do to surrender to God’s will; to cooperate in the process by being open to change.  What is this that we do? We practice virtue.  In the practice of virtue, we are doing our imperfect best to avoid occasions of sin.  Through the virtues, we put others first, and thus die to self.  The practice of virtue and a deep prayer life are our main contributions to the process of becoming holy. 

So, why a child in a playpen? I see the event of reaching up hands to the father as equating to the practice of virtue and prayer. In so doing, we grant God permission to enter into the process. As a result of this, God reaches down, and lifts us up to the heights of holiness.  We become one with the Father as Jesus was one with him.  I like the way Fr. Jordan Aumman, O.P. said it, it is about becoming through grace what Jesus was by nature. Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition p 12.

This raises the question – what is holiness? Holiness is God.  Thus, in becoming holy, we become less, and God becomes more.  We are more and more joined to the divine life as we practice virtue as a way of raising our hands to the father, and allowing him to perform his trascendent process within us. 

Spend some time today picturing yourself lifting your hands to God.  Imagine him working in you a deep conversion.  Imagine surrendering to his power and might, and allowing him to bring you to a more fulfilling life.  Think of ways in which you can practice virtue. For those of you who have not studied virtue, I’ll say there are a few different types. In short, the virtues I am talking about are acts of dying to self and of being service to others.  Don’t forget to invite the Holy Spirit into your imagination, and ask him to show you how to provide him with more room within you in which to work his miracles of change. 

In Him,

dw 

Spirituality 101

What is spirituality? It is a relationship with our triune God.  It includes living a moral life that is supercharged by the Holy Spirit.  In other words, what we cannot do because of our sinful nature, we can do when we call the Holy Spirit into our efforts, and truly open ourselves to grace.  Sometimes, opening ourselves to grace takes a lot of practice. This practice happens in each aspect of our lives as we learn to surrender. It isn’t a one size fits all or one time event.  We might not see results immediately.  Provided we don’t give up, God will continue to heal our brokenness, and we will constantly see improvement. Even when we take backwards steps, he is still there, merciful and mighty.  We just have to surrender again.  

What does spirituality look like? This is my current thesis.  It is about inviting the Holy Spirit into our days. It is about surrendering to him, and learning to follow his lead.  Thus, when I am having difficulty getting through to someone with whom I am communication, I internally pray, “Holy Spirit, show me the right words.”  When I find myself committing the same sin over and over again, “Holy Spirit, help me to tie into your grace so that I can avoid this sin.”  (This one is especially critical as you see yourself about to sin).  

More importantly than the personal benefits of life in the Spirit is the communal aspects.  The early Christians truly supported each other, even financially.  I believe this is because the Holy Spirit prompted their generosity.  The givers trusted the Holy Spirit to be there for them if they ran into financial difficulties. They did not rely on their own personal savings. I am amazed when I hear stories about people receiving money from someone who said, “I feel like the Holy Spirit is asking me to send this to you.” 

Just think what our world would look like if we all were a little more open to taking a chance on the Holy Spirit. Even when we get it wrong, the Spirit uses it for God’s glory. 

Spend a few minutes today praying for wisdom on how the Holy Spirit works in your life. Consider where you can grow in your understanding of the Spirit both in your personal life and in supporting those around you.  Look for little ways to acknowledge the Spirit in your life, and to empower him to show you wonderful and mighty deeds.

In Him, 

dw 

Being Like Children

This morning, I pondered my relationship with God in light of having visited some of my nieces and nephews over the weekend.  I watched the interaction of the parents and the kids, and I chimed in here and there along the way.  I saw the fight for control; for the right to do things the way they wanted to. Most of you know the drill!  

When Jesus said we must be like children, he was talking about the innocence and trust they put in their parents.  He was not talking about them having to learn self-disciple and social niceties.  

I think the imagery of what I saw during this visit was eye opening in regards to the faith walk.  God is our father.  He wants us to trust him. He wants us to submit to his will. He wants us to follow the law.  What do we do? We struggle for control. We struggle to get our way.  We use all of the same antics young children use.  

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit today.  Reflect on your relationship with the Father. He wants you to submit to his will. He wants you to trust him with your whole heart.  Where are you fighting him for control and dominion in your own life?  Pray to the Holy Spirit to guide you through the life-long process of trusting him with your life; of surrendering to him.  

In Him,

dw

Relinquish and Receive

This week, I was reading a book on the Prophets by Walter Brueggemann.  He suggests that the purpose of Jeremiah, 2 Isaiah, and Ezekiel was to help the Jews into exile, through exile, and back from exile.  He said that God needed to destroy the existing world order and the false ideas of covenant that had developed over the years, and to bring the people back with a better understanding of their relationship with God.  Thus, by tearing everything down, he could restore the proper vision of covenant living. 

Brueggemann’s thesis was based on world order.  I want to take his theory down to the personal level.  We all have ideas about how the world works, who God is, and how he works in our life. God is so outside of our understanding that there must be falsity in our understanding.  In truth, God calls us to total dependence on him. He calls us to relinquish all that we hold dear in the world, including our false perceptions of him, so that he can replace what we give up with something greater. 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit today pondering what God is calling you to relinquish.  Talk to him about any fears or concerns you have with letting go.  Talk to him about your desire to maintain control over your life, and ask him to help you trust him more.  You can start with the little things. For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic, accept that God allowed that to happen.  Praise him for the opportunity to choose peace over anger.  As you practice giving up things over which you have no control, you will find it easier to give up the things that you do try to control. 

In Him,

dw

On God’s Time

I have spent some time of late pondering God’s healing.  Is it on his time or mine?  I am not positive, but I have become more convinced that I stand in the way of my own healing.  I find myself fighting grace, and holding on to destructive patterns of behavior.  

For instance, in my retired from law status, I find myself watching too much TV. I know that I could fill my time with more prayer or reading or in pursuit of new hobbies.  I could fill my time with better caring for my house and my yard.  Is it bad to watch too much TV?  Well, I’ll avoid the answer and go with – I keep praying for God to give me better habits, and I keep falling back into the old. God or me? In this instance – me.  I feel the grace to do something more; to do better than I am doing with the habits I want to break.  I am the one who avoids and goes back to the easy way.  I go back to the easy way even though I long for more fulfilling hobbies and habits.  

This morning, I found myself praying for the Holy Spirit to enter into these places, and to help me let go. I prayed for him to heal these places, and to help me avoid getting in his way.  I figure I will be praying for this continually until I fully let go and let God.  I imagine I will likely take it back, and have to start over until I learn to fully step into his light.  

Thus, I find myself believing that God heals on my time. He will not override my free will, even when in my conscious mind I have surrendered to his will. He will work in my subconscious until I release each and every piece of the brokenness to him. 

Spend sometime today with the Holy Spirit. Ask him where you are in need of releasing your full consciousness to his healing power. Ask him where you are holding onto comforts of the known over the unknown. Invite him into all of these places, and ask him to heal you.  Repeat the process through time, for in time, you will find your prayers answered.  

In Him,

dw 

What is the Meaning of Life?

 Life is about learning who God is, and who we are in light of this God.  It is in pursuing this path of knowledge that we are transformed into whom God longs for us to be – united with him; holy.   

The message of Christ calls us to live life a certain way, and to hold on to truth no matter what.  To hold on even when our loved ones pass from this earth or make bad decisions.  It is about trust.  It is in knowing that it is in the hereinafter that we will find the peace and love that God longs to give us.  

It isn’t so much that such a life of peace and love is not available here as it is that sin and our confusion over its effects blind us to peace and love in this life. The Kingdom of God is here.  It is fully present, but we are unable to remain in it.  We are unable to remain in it because while we long to be holy, we also long to be of the world. We are at war within ourselves. Our own interior being is not at peace and fails to love.  

What is the meaning of life – it is about learning to live in peace and love with the God who created us. It is about being joined to the one who created us and loves us.  It is about transcendence which means letting go of things of this world in exchange for that which our hearts long.  

Spend some time in prayer today pondering where peace and love might reside within you despite all of the contradictions. Spend time asking the Holy Spirit to heal your longings for worldly things. Spend some time asking him to realign your path on earth so that it is more in line with where he longs for you to tread. He will give you your hearts delight if you let him. 

In Him,

dw 

Trust in God, I will Praise Him Still, My Savior and My God

This morning, as I enter the first full week after my Mother’s passing (which is also my birthday), the concept of trust returns to mind.  One of my sisters mentioned recently that when one breaks trust, it takes a long time to earn it back.  As I ponder God, I wonder if this is true with him.  I do not mean in regards to his trust in us. He has no reason to trust anything except that we will be sinners for the rest of our earthly lives.  

He has lost my trust at times, but has currently earned it back.  In fact, I feel less anxious than at times when I do not trust because I know that when I mess up, he has my back. He turns everything to his glory because I love him.  He will guide my feet on safe paths, but sometimes the path may have stones or other obstacles.  There may be wolves crying in the distance, and lions lurking in hiding. Even these I need not fear. 

I suppose in some respects I have learned that safe paths are not ones where we walk without stumbling or pain.  Bad things happen not because God is untrustworthy, but because we sin. Our individual sins create a ripple effect that impacts everyone and everything. God is infinitely trustworthy, but we have to be careful not to let our expectations of how he should act cloud our understanding of his trustworthiness.  

As I enter the first year of life without my mother, I choose to trust in the one in whom she trusted.  I choose to frequently ponder whether something has happened to hurt this trust, and to address these issues more promptly. I choose to keep on track, to the best of my broken ability.  

Spend some time today with the Holy Spirit seeking areas of your life where you feel that God has broken your trust.  Ask him to help you resolve these issues, and to restore your trust in the most trustworthy of beings.  Ask him to heal the areas of your life where you misunderstand him and his plan, the areas where it feels that he has broken trust, and see if you can enter into an ever deepening relationship with the God who loves you. 

In Him,

dw 

The Last Mile

In my days working in telecom, I learned about the last mile.  This was not my full-time job, so I ask my friends who understand network to forgive any misunderstanding. The idea is that it is easy to run cables through the streets and across utility poles, and blanket the city in cable. The hard part is connecting each house on each street to the main network.  

What does this have to do with Christian living?  In our lives, we are taught to live virtuous lives. We are taught to avoid occasions of sin.  There is the part that is our efforts.  We put in the main cables. We put in the work to be as good as we can be.  It is not enough.  The Israelites of the Old Testament are our illustration of this. They saw God’s marvelous works. They may not have been personal witnesses to the works of God, but they were believers in God’s miraculous works.  Still they regularly turned their backs on God, and turned their faces to sin. 

One of the main differences between the Old and the New covenants is the concept of Spirit.  It is only through the Holy Spirit working within us that we can truly achieve compliance with the law (the law being love of God and neighbor).  It is the Holy Spirit who takes us the last mile, and connects all of the pieces. Without connecting the pieces, the main network is useless. They are just cables in the street. They are just useless works. 

True Christian living is using the Holy Spirit to effectuate our efforts.  It is through this combined network that we are humbled, and learn to follow the lead of an all-knowing God.  It is through this combined network that we really become Christ for others because our God has a greater presence within us. It is through this connection that we find joy in unity with our God; joy in living in a broken world, even in the worst of circumstances. 

Spend some time today with the Holy Spirit. Ask him where you need his assistance to go the last mile. Ask him to help you grow in humility so that you can be more open to his guiding presence in your life.  Ask him to strengthen you this day so that you can be an even greater disciple. Add this prayer to your daily routine because the process of being connected is a minute by minute disciple, and, as with all networks, once the cables are connected, trouble can still be on the lines. 

In Him,

dw 

A Merciful and Loving God

This morning, I was pondering life, and some of the areas of my life where I’m struggling.  I heard this soft voice in my head saying, “it’s ok. Thanks for doing what you are doing.”  God’s mercy is an amazing thing. After years of mentally beating myself up, I am finding mercy with myself.  

I think the problem with mercy is that it can lead to complacency.  I think it can be a non-motivating factor, and causes us to lapse into satisfaction with where we are.  

The Christian life is about a journey towards holiness.  Jesus says, let them be one as we are one.  This means that we are called to participate in the divine. We are called to be God by participation in the Body of Christ.  We are called to be a holy people. 

So, what is the middle ground between sloth and mental bullying; the place between a healthy internal dialog and sin?  I am not sure I have the answer.  My current hypothesis is that we get up every day and do our best. We encourage ourselves, but we stand in awareness that we can always do better tomorrow. We stand in truth that we are still sinners. God loves us where we are, but longs for us to participate with the Holy Spirit so that we can be divine. 

Today, find some time to reflect on your view of God’s mercy. Do you allow it to hold you to one standard of acceptance, or does his love for you drive you to seek more out of life? How does the Holy Spirit work in your life? Does he help you to overcome sin, and encourage you towards the divine?  If not, what action plan can you implement to improve in this area of your faith walk?

In Him,

dw 

Not My Will But Yours

I don’t know about you, but I find that I spend more of my days being angry or confused because God went left when I went right.  Whose fault is this? It isn’t God’s.  

Here is what I know. Being a Christian means walking in faith with the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit guiding our steps. When we get out of step, it is our fault.  We get ahead of him. We step on the toes of the one with whom we are dancing.  

Our God is an all-knowing God. He knows what is best for us, even when we, in our simple-mindedness, think we know best.  We try to avoid suffering and discomfort, but ours is a religion of carrying a cross. Ours is a religion of believing the best, the perfect, is yet to come.  It cannot come until we submit to his will. It cannot come until we realize that we are not the boss of ourselves. We have given our lives over to Him who made us and wants what is best for us. 

What is best for us? Reliance on a God who loves us.  Total reliance on a God who loves us.  This means accepting the good with the bad. It means blessing God in the best of times and in the worst of times. It means faithfully following the one who is guiding us, even if our attempts involve stepping on his toes throughout the dance. He is strong, and he can take it. He prefers that to us trying to lead throughout the dance. 

Spend some time today pondering where you are trying to lead, and asking the Holy Spirit for the grace to surrender. Ask him to show you where your expectations differ from his, and start on the path of peaceful surrender.  This goes against our nature, and it may take some time. He will be with you. He is patient. He will get you through. 

In Him

dw